If you haven't been to the PlayLand indoor bounce house experience in the MLK Gym in Sausalito, it's definitely worth a visit, especially if it's rainy or cold and you can't play outside. PlayLand is a full-sized gymnasium full of inflatable bounce houses, including a 40-by-20-foot sports arena, a 15-foot slide, a bounce house with basketball hoop, and a toddler bounce zone.
My kids always have a blast playing here—sliding, jumping, bouncing, and playing games in a warm, safe, indoor environment. PlayLand was started by Marin dad Jeremy Williams, who also runs Mt. Tam Adventure Camps. He's often on site with several coaches who make sure that everyone has fun. During our last visit, a coach was making balloon animals for the kids, and there was even a remote controlled flying giant clownfish roaming the room. It's a fun and cool place to play in Marin.
One of childhood's time-honored rituals is heading down to a local pond and feeding leftover bread to the ducks. Not only is it fun for small children, but it helps get ride of that leftover bread in your pantry, too. Feeding the ducks is something my kids always loved to do, and even still enjoy, and there are a few great places in and around Marin County where hungry ducks are plentiful.
Of course feeding the ducks isn't without its risks—pesky and aggressive gulls and Canada geese often try to elbow their way into the action, and they're pretty much ubiquitous in the Bay Area these days. We always try to make sure the ducks get their fair share and try to find a way to outwit the avian interlopers!
The Marin Civic Center
The Marin Civic Center in San Rafael is home to a large pond that's home to numerous waterfowl. There's also a new playground, nice paved walking paths, lawns, picnic tables, and even an island. It's fun to go feed the ducks after an outing to the nearby farmers market on Thursdays and Sundays.
Just across its namesake bridge from Marin County lies a perfect day-trip destination for familes: San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. This urban oasis boasts over 1,000 acres of forests, meadows, lakes, gardens, museums, playgrounds, and other attractions. There's so much to do here that you'll probably want to visit several times to take it all in.
Established in the 1870s, Golden Gate Park stretches from Ocean Beach in the west to the city's Haight-Ashbury district in the east, and is bordered by the Sunset and Richmond districts on the south and north, respectively. Whether your family wants to play at an historic playground, visit the penguins at the Cal Academy, take in some art at a world-class museum, or have lunch with a view of the Pacific Ocean, there's something for you to do here.
Marin Mommies presents a guest article by San Rafael dad Joey Chandler on the growing popularity of the Thursday Night Playdate and Potluck (P&P). It's a great way to make friends and meet other families in the neighborhood, and he offers some tips for starting a P&P of your own.
There is a growing movement in San Rafael that I want to share with you. This simple idea builds community, is fun for kids, and keeps parents sane.
We call it the Thursday Night Playdate and Potluck and it is exactly that. We meet on Thursday nights around 5 pm at a local park and families bring food and drinks to share. The kids run and play, the adults share adult conversation and we all have a great time. Some people bring cooked dishes and others bring just a bottle of wine because the kids were having one of those days. Commuting parents join us when they get back and visiting relatives are welcomed with open arms. There is no agenda or meal assignments, just families coming together to share food and getting to know each other. These are a blast and honestly it has become one of the highlights of my week.
We don't find ourselves up in Santa Rosa all that often, but when we do, we make it a point to stop by Howarth Park and play for a while. This large park on the east side of town is packed with attractions and things to do, and it's well worth a visit if your in the area; it might even merit a special trip up north.
Howarth Park has been a Sonoma County fixture since the 1950s. Not only does the park boast a large, modern set of play structures, it has plenty of other attractions as well. Kids can take a trip on a miniature train, ride a carousel, meet some animals at the barn, take a pony ride, and even rent a boat to sail on adjacent Lake Ralphine.
The main "Land of Imagination" play area is divided into several sections, each suitable for different age groups. At the center of the play area is an Old West town where kids can indulge in creative play. A Native American village area is also part of the playground. An additional playground on the other side of the parking area features swings and a rock climbing wall structure.
Both my kids were born at Marin General Hospital in Greenbrae and subsequently had many checkups at the nearby pediatrician's offices, so we've been fans of Creekside Park, located right across from the hospital on Bon Air Road, for a long time. The park re-opened earlier this year as Hal Brown Park at Creekside, and the improvements make it even better than it was before, and it's still one of our all-time favorite playgrounds in Marin.
With an incomparable setting along Corte Madera Creek, two exciting playgrounds, and quite possibly the best views of Mount Tam in Marin, there's really something here for the whole family.
Come down and play in Imagination Playground, a newly opened permanent exhibition at Sausalito's Bay Area Discovery Museum. Located in the museum's Festival Plaza, Imagination Playground is a breakthrough concept in playspace design created by architect David Rockwell to encourage the child-directed, unstructured free play that is so important in nurturing children's creativity.
Imagination Playground offers kids endless possibilities for creative play. Children can use a wide array of different elements—including giant foam blocks, slides, noodles, fabric, carts, and balls—to create their own play experiences and reconfigure and modify them. They can also bring sand and water into play in their creations. Adult "Play Associates" are on hand to maintain a safe and secure environment and assure a steady supply of parts for maximum fun and creativity.
For a county with a relatively large number of families, Marin has never had a surplus of indoor play spaces for young children. While our weather is usually nice enough for outdoor play, indoor spots are appealing during cold, rainy, or hot weather, and also because of the classes and programs that many of them offer in addition to being a place to play.
Over the last year, we've lost two great resources, Playtime Safari in Novato and San Anselmo's Playdate Café, victims of unfortunate circumstance and the sputtering economy. This week, we've learned that Mill Valley's Gymboree Play & Music, a longtime favorite spot of many Marin parents, will be most likely closing its doors for good at the end of the month! The current owner of the Gymboree Play & Music franchise has decided to close it, but it was apparently bought back by Gymboree itself (which was founded in Mill Valley and is currently headquartered in San Francisco) with the intention of keeping the facility open. Unfortunately, they have not been able to renegotiate a lease with the landlord at Strawberry Village, where it is located.